(Photo by Getty Image)
I’m still trying to sort out all that happened tonight in this 10-7 Mariners’ win: the cycle by Houston’s Brandon Barnes (plus an infield single for good measure, leaving him with a 5-for-5 night), the 27 hits (16 of them in a losing effort by the Astros), the 12 walks (eight of them by the Mariners, who seem to finally buying into the “controlled aggression” rap that Eric Wedge has been hammering home for so long), and the six home runs (four by the Mariners, who are just a slugging machine these days).
Of course, the takeaway from his game is going to be Brad Miller, the rookie shortstop, who did it all. He led off the game with a single on the first pitch, and then he hit his first major-league home run with a man aboard in the sixth, and then he hit his second home run with two men aboard in the eighth. Oh, did I mention he turned in a “Web Gem” double play in the fourth, with a lunging stop, a flip out of his glove to Nick Franklin, who added his own dazzle with a barehanded catch to complete the turn (“I wasn’t crazy about the bare-hand,” said Eric Wedge, who was too jacked up by what he’s seeing to be annoyed).
Miller, sopping wet from the tradition beer shower (capped by a non-traditional slurpee chaser) had a pretty good quote about his first homer, which came off Bud Norris.
“He threw one in there and it felt pretty good; it felt really good,’’ Miller said. “It felt pure. And I kind of blacked out there for a little bit.”
Come to think of it, he had a pretty good quote about his second home run, too, which came off Josh Fields. Yeah, that Josh Fields — the Mariners’ first-round draft pick in 2008, who was traded to Boston with Erik Bedard. Now both are in Houston, Fields as a Rule 5 reliever, Bedard in the Astros rotation, starting against the Mariners on Saturday. Anyway, here’s what Miller said about the homer, which came after a great battle back from 1-2 to 3-2:
“I didn’t see it originally off the bat. And then I saw (right fielder Justin) Maxwell turn,’’ Miller said. “And I was like, gosh he’s like 7 feet tall, he’s about to do something. He was sizing up the wall. And I was like just go, just push. And luckily it was just out of his reach.”
Here’s what Wedge said about Miller being able to handle the pressure of the major leagues:
“It’s his persona. It’s why I kept him in camp the whole time; I wanted to see him. He handles everything at the same pace, which says a lot when it comes to this game. You talk about the game speeding up – he does a good job keeping it out in front of him. Give himself some space to go out and play.”
The Mariners have now homered in 23 games in a row, which is remarkable — just five teams in history have gone more, led by the 2002 Rangers at 27 (records only go back to 1916). Kyle Seager and Justin Smoak also went deep tonight. But there’s no question the Mariners are putting up better at-bats up and down the order. Wedge made special mention of Mike Zunino, who walked three times, and Dustin Ackley, who worked a walk in addition to going opposite-field on a two-run double. Yeah, it’s the Astros, the worst pitching team — the worst team, period — in the majors. But this has been going on for a few weeks now.
“That’s what we’ve been talking about,” Wedge said. “You look at the at-bats, the length of the at-bats, they’re real, they’re productive. Even if one guys doesn’t get it done, he’s putting up hard-fought at-bats, and that’s going to benefit the next guy. That’s what good hitting clubs do, and we’ve been doing it for a little while.
“It was nice to see Brad get up there first pitch of the game, lines it. Of course, he ended up having a great night with the home runs. A lot of quality at-bats out there. There were a lot of pitches thrown out there. We threw a few too many ourselves. But that’s how you grind it out and hopefully wear them down a little.
“When someone’s up there a long time, you’re teammates are watching that, so you’re getting better by watching, especially if it’s someone similar to you. Or someone right ahead of you in lineup.”
Miller’s home run followed one of those long at-bats by Zunino.
“Everybody is just piecing good at-bats together, honestly, not trying to do too much,” Miller said. “I don’t know why but hitting is contagious. Guys have good at-bats, even if they don’t get a hit necessarily and they hit a ball hard or make a loud out, it just sets the tone. The next guy up there has a little more confidence.”